Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May’s Commons statement about the Syria air strikes
Colin Yeo, a barrister who specialises in asylum and immigration cases, has posted a very good thread explaining how the problems facing the “Windrush generation” immigrations have been exacerbated by relatively recent policy decisions taken by the government. It starts here.
The cross party consensus that “Something Must Be Done” is very welcome. The problem is that there is no quick fix. Short thread. 1/? https://t.co/TifCZ0QISH
Tony Blair opened the speech that would launch Britain into war with Iraq with these momentous words: “It is right that this house debate this issue and pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right but that others struggle for in vain.”
Ever since that fateful day in 2003, MPs have jealously guarded the right to authorise military action. In 2006, it was endorsed by a House of Lords constitutional inquiry and enthusiastically advocated by the future foreign secretary William Hague in 2007.
Theresa May will meet Caribbean leaders this week to discuss the plight of the “Windrush generation”, the prime minister’s spokesman told journalists at this morning’s lobby briefing.
That amounts to a very swift U-turn – No 10 had refused a request for a formal meeting – although the spokesman said that May herself did not know that Caribbean leaders had asked for a meeting on this until this morning.
A meeting of EU foreign ministers, attended by the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has agreed on a strong statement in support of the airstrikes. They say:
The Syrian conflict has entered its eighth year of continuous and widespread violence, persistent and brutal violations of international law, including abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, by all parties as well as the repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and by Da’esh.
The Syrian regime bears the overwhelming responsibility for the catastrophic humanitarian situation and the suffering of the Syrian people. We strongly condemn the continued and repeated use of chemical weapons by the regime in Syria, including the latest attack on Douma, which is a grave breach of international law and an affront to human decency.
Sajid Javid, the housing and communities secretary whose parents came to the UK as immigrants, has said that he is “deeply concerned” about the problems some “Windrush generation” immigrants are facing and that the government is looking into the problems “urgently”.
I’m deeply concerned to hear about difficulties some of the Windrush generation are facing with their immigration status. This should not happen to people who have been longstanding pillars of our community. The government is looking into this urgently
This is from Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, explaining why he has released the legal opinion saying the Syria air strikes were unlawful. (See 11.03am.) Watson said:
I commissioned this advice from Professor Akande, one of the country’s pre-eminent legal experts on international law, because I wanted to be certain of the legal position on the strikes. MPs and the public should not have to rely on the partial information about legality released by the government. There is a clear public interest in this expert and impartial advice from Professor Akande and that is why I am releasing it in full. The government should do the same with their advice.
This is from my colleague Polly Toynbee on Penny Mordaunt’s comments about their being no need for parliament to be consulted about the Syrian air strikes. (See 8.52am.)
Brexiter Penny Mordaunt says parliament should not make war decisions: odd, really, since “taking back control” and absolute sovereignty of our parliament were claimed reasons to vote Leave. https://t.co/U54dAOnzTc
There have been at least three applications under standing order 24 (see 10.34am) for emergency debates on Syria, I’m told – one from the government and at least two from the opposition. It is not clear yet which will get called.
(If this was a Labour conference, there would be a committee to agree a composite motion – combining wording from all three – but I’m afraid parliament doesn’t work like that.)
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, told Sky News earlier that he had received a briefing from the government on the Syrian air attacks and that, on the basis of what he had been told, he was satisfied that the Assad regime was to blame for the chemical attack at Douma. He said:
I would say that, having had a briefing which I’ve just come from, I am satisfied that this has been the regime in Syria that has been responsible for this, and of course they have to be called out in the absolute strongest terms.
The UK delegation to the OPCW has also been tweeting about today’s meeting. (See 11.12am.)
#OPCW Director Gen briefs Exec Council on his Fact Finding Mission’s deployment to to investigate #Douma chem weapon attack. OPCW arrived in Damascus on Saturday. Russia & Syria have not yet allowed access to Douma. Unfettered access essential. Russia & Syria must cooperate.
Russia has denied claims made by the US administration, at a meeting of a global watchdog, that it may have tampered with the site of the recent alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.
A US envoy told a closed-door session of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in The Hague, on Monday that they had reason to fear interference, following the attack on the 7 April in the town of Douma, outside the Syrian capital.
“It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site”, Reuters reported the the US ambassador Kenneth Ward telling his fellow envoys. He said:
It is our concern that they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to conduct an effective investigation.
The time has come for all members of this executive council to take a stand. Too many duck the responsibility that comes with being a member of this council. Failure to act to hold perpetrators to account will only risk further barbaric use of chemical weapons, in Syria and beyond.
Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, has released a five-page legal opinion arguing the Syria airstrikes were illegal. It is from Dapo Akande, professor of public international law at Oxford University.
Here is Akande’s summary of his conclusions.
In the opinion I reach the following conclusions:
1. Contrary to the position of the government, neither the UN charter nor customary international law permits military action on the basis of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. There is very little support by states for such an exception to the prohibition of the use of force. The UK is one of very few states that advocates for such a legal principle but the vast majority of states have explicitly rejected it.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the rightwing Conservative backbencher, told LBC during his new phone-in programme this morning that the treatment of the “Windrush generation” by the Home Office (see 9.43am) was a “deep disgrace”. These tweets are from LBC’s Theo Usherwood.
Stand by your beds in the Home Office on Windrush generation. Rees-Mogg: “These people are as British as you and I are. Home Office is coming out with bureaucratic guff. Deep disgrace. “You do wonder about Home Office sometimes… not the most efficient Government department.”
Amber Rudd takes questions in the Commons at 2.30pm. Judging by this, and other tweets, the Government has a limited amount of time to fix the problem. https://t.co/BSoKaF1aCe
When interviewing Penny Mordaunt on Today, Nick Robinson said that William Hague had backed giving MPs a vote on military action when he was foreign secretary in the coalition government. (See 8.52am.)
Hague has used Twitter to say that he would never have supported legislation saying parliament should have to be consulted about limited, one-off military action, like the Syrian air strikes.
@bbcnickrobinson But we reluctantly concluded over the next couple of years that framing legislation to cover all eventualities was impractical. In any case I would never have envisaged legislation requiring parlt approval for this sort of one-off action with limited objectives.
Downing Street has still not announced the wording of the motion covering the Syria air attacks that will be debated this afternoon.
To trigger a debate, Theresa May will use standing order 24 – a rule that allows MPs to demand an emergency debate. (The speaker has to agree, but he is unlikely to say no.)
1. Tomorrow the PM will take v unusual step for resident of Number 10 and call for an emergency debate on Syria – but that doesn’t mean a vote that’s worth anything will take place
As he arrived at the meeting of EU foreign ministers this morning (see 9.27am), Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, was asked why the government was not having a proper vote on the Syria air strikes. He replied:
As you know, there will be ample opportunity in parliament today. The prime minister will be on her feet this afternoon in the House of Commons. As you know, the speaker is very generous and accommodating to every backbencher who wishes to speak and I’m sure that every MP in parliament will want to have their say.
In her Today interview Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, was also asked about the controversy about “Windrush-generation” immigrants who are losing rights, or even facing threats of deportation, because they do not have the paperwork proving they have been in the UK for decades. She said that people should not be concerned and that there was “absolutely no question of their right to remain”. She told the programme:
People who are in that situation, there is absolutely no question of their right to remain, and their right to gain access to services such as healthcare.
What clearly needs to happen is we need to do a better job with the process that these individuals are having to go through.
Development Sec, Penny Mordaunt says “absolutely no question” of #Windrush children’s “right to remain and their right to gain access to services such as health care”. So why is Albert Thompson still not receiving NHS cancer treatment?
Penny Mordaunt completely missed the point on @BBCr4today re #Windrush generation – these long-term UK residents just shouldn’t have to face anxiety & uncertainty about status in UK – it’s their home. Govt must act to sort this out – shameful that they are so unwilling to engage
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is in Luxembourg this morning for a meeting of EU foreign ministers. On his way in he insisted that the air strikes were “not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have regime change” and that “the Syrian war in many ways will go on in its horrible, miserable way”. He went on:
But it was the world saying that we have had enough of the use of chemical weapons, the erosion of that taboo that has been in place for 100 years has gone too far under Bashar Assad. It was time that we said no and it was totally, therefore, the right thing to do.
Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, told the Today programme that the legal arguments used by the government to justify the air strikes did not stack up. She told the programme:
You can’t use force under international law just to punish Syria for bad behaviour. You have to actually be using urgent, necessary and proportionate force. And you have to do it with the will of the world behind you …
The government has not passed the tests it set for itself. I don’t think that the government can demonstrate convincing evidence, and a general acceptance by the international community that they had to act in the way they did a few days ago.
I think that parliament should have been recalled before the strike. Some people will suspect that that didn’t happen because of governmental concerns that they couldn’t get the vote in parliament. And that to me is not a good enough reason.
If you are interested in more detail about the argument about whether parliament should have a vote on decisions to approve military action, this 60-page briefing paper (pdf) from the House of Commons library in 2015 sets out the issues, and the precedents, in great detail.
And here is the written ministerial statement from Michael Fallon, the then defence secretary, telling MPs in April 2016 why the government had decided not to codify the convention that parliament should get a vote on military deployments.
At the end of last week Theresa May ordered the RAF to take part in air strikes against Syria without the backing of parliament. As Heather Stewart reports in our overnight story, May will face MPs for the first time since the attack this afternoon and argue that her decision was justified.
To take a decision on whether something is legally justified, and whether what we are actually intending on doing in terms of targets is appropriate, you would need to know information that could not be shared with every MP. And so, outsourcing that decision to people who do not have the full picture is, I think, quite wrong. And, the convention that was established, I think is very wrong. I support governments being able to take those decisions, parliament should hold government to account for that decision.
You can’t, for example, share targets with members of parliament. It would be a crazy thing to do.
Mordaunt on @skynews suggests when its boots on the ground, or a sustained military campaign, parliament should be consulted but PM should be able to authorise a limited attack without approval.